Spokes on tap
Bikes, beers and a pair of local businesses embracing both
Road cyclist Brennan Percy tends to work up a thirst during the climb to Paradise, so he often stops at a gas station for something refreshing, like a Coors Light, before riding home—where he’s liable to crack open another one after his ride. To him, beer and bicycling is a perfect pairing.
“Cyclists love beer,” he said. “It’s a big part of the industry.”
That’s an obvious truth in Chico, where it’s typical to see a row of cruisers and fixies locked up outside downtown bars. But something bigger might be brewing: Just last month Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Chico Velo Cycling Club collaborated for their first Bikes & Beers, an event combining a 15- to 30-mile ride with an after party at the brewery. And this month, two local businesses are expanding on the relationship between beer and two-wheeled transportation.
Percy is a manager at Greenline Cycles, the downtown bike shop that recently doubled in size after taking over the space formerly occupied by Three Sixty Ecotique. Like retailers across the country, Greenline is grappling with how to thrive as a brick-and-mortar store in the age of Internet sales, and in doing so it’s getting creative. In October, Greenline will start serving prepackaged food, coffee and—you guessed it—draft beer.
At first, Percy will install two taps, probably pouring Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Coors Light, he said. Down the line, he’d also like to add a third tap for rotating seasonal beers. Greenline borrowed the idea from a handful of bike shops operating under the same business model in Southern California, but it’s also a natural move because a few regular customers occasionally bring their own cases of beer into the shop around closing time, anyway.
“It’s like, why not start offering that to them so they don’t have to bring their own?” Percy said. “It makes sense. … Similar to beer drinkers, cyclists are looking for a community of sorts to be a part of, and bike shops are always an organizing place. We’d like to see ourselves as a hub for bike rides: Meet here, get a cup of coffee, go for a ride, come back, drink a beer and hang out for a little bit.”
But bike sales and tune-ups will remain the business’ bread and butter. “We’re still a bike shop,” Percy said, “not a bar.”
Coincidentally, another business across town also recently made an expansion that puts beers and bikes in proximity to one another. Brian and Carolyn Kanabrocki, owners of the craft beer hotspot The Handle Bar on East 20th Street, just reopened after shutting down for about three weeks to make major renovations. The spiffy new space includes an expanded kitchen and menu, as well as a new “eating place” distinction on its ABC license, which allows the restaurant to serve all ages. They’ve also installed a new wraparound bar, eight more taps for a total of 28, and, most noticeably, a banquet room with windows overlooking rows of bikes for sales on the showroom floor of new neighbor AMain Cycling.
Though the bar and bike shop (formerly Cyclesport downtown) are now connected by an inside door, they remain separate businesses with no overlap in terms of operations or ownership. However, the Kanabrockis recognize the golden opportunity for cross-branding and co-sponsored events.
“It’s been a mystery to us who was going to move into that space the entire time we’ve been here,” Carolyn said. “Our concern was always that it would be some sort of competition or it wouldn’t fit in with our customer base, but this could not be more perfect.”
AMain feels the same way, according to manager Brendon Steinle. They made the move mostly for the bigger space, but embraced their designer’s suggestion to build a door connecting the businesses.
“We thought it would be a good thing for our cycling customers to have a place to call home after going on bike rides,” he said, “and being able to see the bike shop through the bar is pretty cool.”
It is called The Handle Bar, after all. At the suggestion of Carloyn’s mother, the couple decided on the bike-centric name well before they opened in December 2012. It fit their personalities as well as Chico’s laid-back style.
“We’re very casual people,” Brian said. “I come to work in shorts and flip-flops every day, and we both own cruisers. We’re not the most avid cyclists, but we recognize that Chico and bikes go hand-in-hand. I think that, in general, beer is a yeoman’s kind of drink. It’s not pretentious, for the most part, and cyclists aren’t pretentious people. They tie in well.”
As a result of AMain moving in next door, the Kanabrockis have started thinking about getting into cycling as a sport. Coincidentally, Greenline’s Percy happens to race competitively with the AMain Cycle team, and he sees Chico as a great place to combine the two interests.
“We have Sierra Nevada and some of the best bike riding in the world,” he said. “It works perfectly.”